Hello Everyone! It’s nearly midnight here and will probably be well past it when I finish tapping this post out on my aging 5S. I just wanted to update you on my travels and my first half-day here in Tokyo.
The journey started out fairly smoothly with only one slight hiccup. Once I arrived at the BWI Amtrak/MARC Train Station, I wheeled straight to the airport shuttle stop directly across the street. Unfortunately when the bus arrived, the ramp was not working. The driver said he had lifted the ramp up slightly to make sure it was working properly before leaving earlier, but confessed that he did not open it up all the way to do a thorough examination. He told me to wait for another bus and said it should be arriving soon. I was not about to bank on the next bus not having this exact problem and risk showing up at the airport late. I put my stuff on the front entrance of the bus and started crawling up. A few really nice Southwest pilots came to assist and later offered to help me get off the bus as well. My motto is, when in doubt, take matters into your own hands. I was relieved the bus driver didn’t put up a fight with me getting on that way, because sometimes they are adamant about me waiting to get on the next bus and will actively drive away to ensure I don’t get on or they will park faraway from the curb.
Other than this, my flight into Tokyo has been extremely smooth sailing. I thought for sure the airport security people would give me trouble with my bag of wheelchair repair tools, but nobody even opened my bag during the whole journey! I was quite amazed.
Anyways, here are my initial observations during my half day here:
1. The public trains have a step going into them once you get to the platform. However, the staff is extremely nice and helpful. If I notify them of my stops, they’ll have a little ramp ready for me to get on the train. There seems to be an adequate amount of elevators in the few metro stations I went through (i.e. Narita, Aoto, Asakusa).
2. The train conductors (aka people who make announcements in the train cart) seem to swap out every 10-15 minutes. During my 50 minute ride, they switched out three times for one train line.
3. There is a super high tech and accessible toilet 🚽 at the airport. I didn’t take a picture of it because there was nastiness in the toilet itself...
4. The only hair style I’ve seen on middle and/or high school girls is a low ponytail in the back with bangs. They all wear the same thing and — white sleeve button down with a kilt like skirt along with some black knee high socks and black dress shoes. I arrived around the time they were getting off school so I saw several of them.
5. The trains do run like clockwork. They are down to the minute punctual. I love it. One thing I was puzzled by was that they encouraged people to refrain from talking, but perhaps I was in the quiet cart...
6. Lots of things are interpreted into Chinese even before they are interpreted into English in train stations/stores, etc. This is probably because there are Chinese tourists everywhere. By the way, they are probably the ones wearing kimonos 👘 around the Sensoji Temple.
7. There are lots of bikers here with their bike bells 🔔.
8. People are very courteous and helpful. Even though there aren’t as many people fluent in English as I had thought, they are very willing to whip out their phones or an old, physical atlas map 🗺 that came out of the 20th century (as was the case with a cute and short stature police standing to the side of a main road) and guide you on your path.
9. I’ve already seen five local Japanese wheelchair users during my short few hours here. What a refreshing change from my usual travel experience. A lot of the infrastructure is not ideal, but you can see them make a concerted effort — at least short term, temporary, immediate efforts. There are often metal or wooden temporary looking ramps outside of stores or restaurants.
10. I’ve found Tokyo to be extremely calm in the neighborhoods I’ve explored. Most of the buildings are not overwhelmingly high. Colleagues are extremely courteous and friendly towards one another. For a city of over 10 million, creating this sense of calm is quite something.
I cannot wait to get some more sleep now and then dive into getting to know this amazing city in the morning. If there is anything particular you want to know about Tokyo, please comment below. Oyasuminasai (good night) from Tokyo. 🇯🇵 #solotravels #exploreTokyo